Mulvaney among those Republicans flipping off Boehner

As much as all of the Four Tea Party Freshman in the SC congressional delegation (I guess after yesterday, they are technically sophomores) like to dis the GOP leadership in the House, with Joe Wilson tagging along behind them, only one of them refused to vote for John Boehner for another term as speaker.

That was Mick Mulvaney. Why? Well, he’s not talking about it:

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney declined Thursday to support giving U.S. Rep. John Boehner a second term as House speaker, joining 11 other Republican lawmakers who protested the Ohioan’s leadership…

398px-Mick_Mulvaney,_Official_Portrait,_112th_CongressNine Republican lawmakers voted for someone other than Boehner, three of them backing his deputy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Mulvaney, by contrast, declined to vote for anyone despite being present in the House chamber. Raul Labrador of Idaho, like Mulvaney a tea party favorite who first gained election in 2010, chose the same tactic…

Mulvaney, who represents South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, later declined to respond to subsequent requests for comment from reporters.

“Mick won’t be available to speak,” his press secretary, Stephanie Faile, told McClatchy. “He is spending the rest of the day with his family.”…

I wonder whether he sat up the night before this, thinking, What would be even more petulant and pouty than declining to vote for speaker? I know! Declining to vote, then refusing to say why!

I guess it beats pulling Boehner’s pants down and shoving him into the ladies’ room

75 thoughts on “Mulvaney among those Republicans flipping off Boehner

  1. tavis micklash

    I know this totally isn’t the point but I couldn’t get past Joe Wilson.

    Of course he would back the speaker. Can you see him ever breaking from the party? He the elected equivalent of the guy who just hits REPUBLICAN at the polls then walks out.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Well, Joe used to be that way. Now, he’s torn. His instinct is, and always has been, to take his cues from the GOP leadership. Now, he’s fallen in with these wild freshmen, and follows them around and jumps off every cliff they jump off of.

    Which you know has to tear him apart, wanting to go in both directions. It was probably comforting to him, this time, to get to vote with most of the frosh, and still support his leadership. Joe, back in his comfort zone, if only for a day…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    It used to be so easy being a Republican. They all believed the same things, and marched in lockstep. None of that schizophrenia you used to see among Dems. Now, they have all these factions, and that’s bound to be painful to an old-style, 11th-Commandment Republican.

  4. tavis micklash

    He literally flies the tea party flag over his driveway.

    Honestly I expect his to jump back to the herd soon. This tea party thing is loosing steam. You don’t want to be without a seat when the music stops.

    Then again it will take a very concerted effort combining with the stars aligning perfect for him to fall out of favor. It happens in Washington occasionally though.

    I dont see this hate congress but love my congressman thing. Its the main reason I voted against Courson. If you think the state senate is ineffective and you have a guy there that has done it for over a quarter of a century he is part of the problem.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Actually, that does not follow logically. One’s own senator is not by definition part of the problem, any more than one should automatically like one’s representative while hating the overall body.

      Each individual should be judged on his or her own merits, not those of the body to which he or she belongs.

      As it happens, judging each individual as an individual, I both dislike Congress, and my congressman. No, wait — I don’t dislike my congressman personally. I just don’t want him to be my congressman.

      I’d be very, very happy to be offered an alternative to my congressman, Joe Wilson (I think I voted for myself as a write-in this last time). In fact, the only two SC congressmen I would have voted FOR, if I’d had the chance, in recent years were John Spratt and Bob Inglis. And as you’ll note, neither of them is still up there. So I have more reason than ever to dislike Congress, based on the individuals who are up there.

      1. tavis micklash

        “Actually, that does not follow logically. One’s own senator is not by definition part of the problem, any more than one should automatically like one’s representative while hating the overall body.”

        Well I guess you caught me in a logical fallacy.

        “As it happens, judging each individual as an individual, I both dislike Congress, and my congressman. No, wait — I don’t dislike my congressman personally. I just don’t want him to be my congressman.”

        Joe Wilson isn’t my congressman anymore. When I moved to Columbia a year back I landed in the gerrymandered Clyburn district.

        Joe Wilson has always been a problem for me. He lived less than a mile away from my parents. I carpooled with his kids. Roxanne was always running late BTW. None of that has anything to do with the fact that he seems to have offered no piece of substantial legislation in decades.

        His email blasts seem to prey on the least common denominator of the partisan right. Its fundraising I know but I fail to see how that is any indication that he is willing to work across the aisle.

        Hes not a bad guy, just a bad representative.

        Are people afraid to vote for incumbents because they don’t want to fire them? Are they worried that their family will end up on the street begging for change?

        1. Bart

          “Joe Wilson isn’t my congressman anymore. When I moved to Columbia a year back I landed in the gerrymandered Clyburn district.”…tavis

          If you think you had no representation under Joe Wilson, guess what? Now you have even less and someone who just as partisan and radical in the other direction. From the frying pan into the fire. Send me your address and I will send you something to ease the 3rd degree burn pains.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I tend to see Wilson and Clyburn as being about the same.

            But that’s because I don’t look at things as being on a left-right axis. I think in terms of a partisan/unpartisan spectrum, and Joe and Jim are in pretty much the same location on that one…

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            I really do think of people that way. Outside the realm of political officeholders (of whose party affiliations we are constantly reminded), I often remember that certain people are big-time partisans, but forget which party.

            I’m thinking here of more-or-less frequent commenters or (in newspaper days) letter writers. I’ll see a name that will ring a bell, and I’ll think, “Oh, that’s that guy who’s always giving me/us a hard time because he’s such a…” and I can’t remember whether he’s on the left or right without looking it up. I just find it easier to remember that someone is doctrinaire than to remember the specific doctrine. If I run into someone like that in person and (against my will) get pulled into a political discussion, I have to wait until he gives away his orientation before I say something that might insult him if I guess wrong about the end of the spectrum he’s on, because that’s as important to him as it is unimportant to me.

  5. Doug Ross

    Imagine a politician doing exactly what he said he would do if elected. Very refreshing compared to the rest of them who lack any courage of conviction. Give me Mulvaney’s commitment over Lindsey Graham’s bloviating capitulation any day. It is amazing that sticking to ones fundamental principles is considered a negative. Better to give in on more of the same foolishness that created the problem than actually do something about it. Boehner is a bought and paid for hack.

  6. Steve Gordy

    Doug, I can’t figure out what it is Mulvaney wants to do except vote “NO” on anything that might be associated (however vaguely) with something Democrats approve. South Carolina is too poor to afford lawmakers who ignore the needs of their constituents while making a name for themselves in Fox Newsland.

  7. Doug Ross

    Has Mulcaney acted in any way that would be considered in conflict with his campaign promises? If not, then he is being the representative of the people who elected him. Is he supposed to be like Lindsey Graham who lies through his teeth every six years?

    1. bud

      That’s the problem. Mulvaney made promises that should never have been made. His commitment to those promises makes him an ineffective congressman because he refuses to budge even when that refusal is bad for the country. I’ll stick up for folks staying committed to principal but when those principals are proven wrong, as is surely the case with this tea party nonsense, it’s time to move in a direction that logic dictates. Mulvaney’s actions hurt the country.

      1. Doug Ross

        How have Mulvaney’s principles been “proven wrong”? We didn’t reach the fiscal cliff point due to Tea Party principles on government spending. We got there based on deficit spending of typical Democrat and Republican legislators.

        You are either for deficit funded government spending or you are not. We have ample evidence of the effectiveness of deficit spending.

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    I can’t think of one time that Lindsey Graham has lied, much less on a regular basis.

    Doug, you and I have very different perceptions of what constitutes honesty. I have no respect for the kind that makes totally arbitrary promises, without any thought to the circumstances that the candidate will actually encounter, and then keeping them in a simplistic, unthinking way that gives no regard whatsoever to the requirements of the situation.

    I don’t like campaign promises, period. And the kind that people like people like Mulvaney make are of a particularly offensive variety, as arbitrary as “I promise always to vote “no” on bills with an even number in months containing an ‘R’.”

    Graham doesn’t make promises like that. He reacts to the actual situation before him. And that, to me, is what constitutes honesty and character in an elected official — not some blind obedience to a pledge no one should have made under any circumstances.

    You were shocked, if I recall correctly, at some of the maneuvers Abraham Lincoln had to engage in to eliminate slavery, as shown in Spielberg’s movie. I was not, perhaps because I’ve been reading the book the movie was based.

    I have been deeply impressed by the way Lincoln’s positions evolved to fit not only the circumstances in which he found himself, but the political move of the moment. Nothing in the platform he ran on envisioned anything like the Emancipation Proclamation — much less the 13th Amendment, which went so much further.

    In fact, the Lincoln who ran for office in 1860 had been very careful not to propose anything that would affect slavery in the states where it existed. He was walking a very fine line between the radicals (abolitionists and others) on the one hand and those who wanted to do or say anything to appease the Southern states. He honestly meant what he said then.

    But the world changed. The military necessities changed, once the war was on and had been engaged in for a couple of years. And Lincoln’s mind changed as to what was needed. Finally, the political mood changed. Lincoln was careful not to issue his Proclamation a single day before the public was ready for it. And when he did, he was careful not to do anything to slavery in the loyal Union states where it existed, because the country was not ready for that politically.

    By the time he was pushing the 13th Amendment, shortly before the war’s end, both the political realities and Lincoln’s own understanding of what the country needed had shifted dramatically, and he acted accordingly.

    THAT is the kind of behavior in an elected official I respect, not these automatons who tell you everything they’re going to do before they get into office, and have neither the wisdom nor the courage to see when they should deviate from the foolish courses they have set.

    1. bud

      I don’t like Mulvaney but I like Graham even less. His committment to endless war is just plain nasueating. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the (Bush Information Garbage) BIG lie about the WMD in Iraq and our disasterous committment to that atrocious cause we need to be ever mindful of anything a politician tells us regarding the dangers from abroad. Too many times our country has fallen for the mendacity of a president to allow us to believe what they say without considerable verification. With so much talk of the ‘dangerous Iran” we should be ever mindful of the BIG lie. Lindsey was a big part of that and frankly I don’t want to waste my time listening to anything he has to say regarding foreign policy.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        There was no lie with regard to Iraq, either BIG or SMALL. Just for the record. It doesn’t matter how many hyperbolic modifiers (“nauseating,” “disastrous,” “atrocious”) you pile on to your assertion of a lie, it doesn’t change the basic fact.

        A bad intelligence analysis (which was the case with the WMD, which is not the same thing as whether we should have gone into Iraq, no matter how many people think it’s the same) is not the same as a lie.

        1. bud

          Whether it was “bad” intelligence or outright mendacity the results were the same. The BIG acronym is appropriate either way. Besides, whether Bush lied or not is irrelevant to my point that we should never trust a president on matters of war WITHOUT extensive verification as to the authenticity of the evidence. In the case of Iraq there was clearly enough doubt among independent analysts to suggest the WMD claim was bogus. Plus there was no need to hurry. Thankfully we seem to be a bit more cautious with Iran. Perhaps that’s the result of having a competent president this time around.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Yes, I do not think Lindsey Graham has “lied” which I define as “an intentional misrepresentation of fact” and could include the fact of present intentions regarding future actions. I think he may have allowed people to see what they wanted to see when voting for him, that is, failed to hammer home that he is not a drone in thrall to Grover Norquist, it that is neither a lie, nor a bad thing.

  9. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’m still plodding along through Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book — I’m a slow reader, particularly with nonfiction. But I can’t hurry, as every page of it is so rich, with so much to reflect on.

    I had sort of suspected it before, but I’m more and more convinced, with each page I read, that Lincoln was our greatest president.

  10. Doug Ross

    All you have to do to track Lindsey Graham is look at the election calendar. He says one thing right up until he gets elected and then reverse himself afterward. We’ll see the ultra right wing Lindsey show his face in the next year. I imagine he’ll parrot John McCain’s “Build The Damn Fence” rhetoric… I truly hope some Republican challenges him so we can watch Graham transform into a Tea Party fan (especially if the polls show things getting close).

    Mulvaney apparently believes that a government spending more than it takes in is not in the best interests of the country. To agree to tax increases without spending cuts that address the deficit seems pretty consistent. I guess if you tell an alcoholic to only drink three beers instead of a six pack, that makes you a master compromiser.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      This statement is simply not true: “He says one thing right up until he gets elected and then reverse himself afterward.”

      Your favorite example of this is immigration. And as I’ve explained over and over, both Graham and McCain were ALWAYS about tightening border security. Always. In fact, both of them came largely to immigration from a national security perspective — we needed to know who was in our country.

      There is nothing whatsoever dishonest in continuing to emphasize border security after the other parts of your comprehensive approach have failed to gain traction. Nothing at all. And it is completely consistent.

      1. Doug Ross

        On November 26, Graham was quoted saying he was “willing to generate revenue” by steps such as capping tax deductions, which he says would most affect upper-income Americans. But he said he would not agree to higher taxes. A month later, he caved in and used the sorry excuse that he had to save his precious military from seeing cuts (gotta pay back those big campaign contributors). So when he said he would not agree to higher taxes, he lied. He didn’t say “I’ll do whatever is best” .

        Now this week he says the following ” I’m going to have the courage of my convictions not to raise the debt ceiling until we reform our nation and stop becoming Greece and finally start getting out of debt. I hope Republicans will fight as hard on the debt ceiling as Barack Obama did on tax rates”. So if two months from now he votes to raise the debt ceiling without significant movement on getting out of debt, won’t that again be a lie?

        If I say I will not do something and then do it, that makes me a liar.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          If I say I will not do something under one set of circumstances one day, and then change my mind under a different set of circumstances another day, it does not make me a liar.

          In fact, the deliberative process absolutely depends on people changing their minds, and doing things they had not previously intended to do. Ideally, elected representatives should shift in this way constantly, as a result of the give and take of debate.

          If you’re just going to do exactly what you intended to do in the past, then there’s no point in going to Washington at all. Just phone it in. Which is what Tea Party reps do, wherever their bodies happen to be…

          1. Doug Ross

            No, you don’t just mail it in. You work to convince people on the other side of the issue to understand your position. You fight for what you believe in, not give in. If you have a basic fundamental belief that government spending is out of control, you don’t vote for tax increases unless there are spending cuts that exceed the increases.

            Would you expect your banker to ignore a person’s credit score and income when giving out loans? Would you expect him to say “I really don’t believe you will pay this back but I’m going to give you the loan anyway just to show my interest in working together?”

            If you believe deficits and the debt are too large and present a real threat to the longterm financial security of the country, why wouldn’t you vote against more of the same? Lindsey Graham can spout all the rhetoric he wants but he’s as much to blame for the state of the government as anyone.

    2. bud

      Doug, the nations $16 trillion debt is just not that big a problem right now. What IS a problem is unemployment. As we slowly recover from the Bush recession the deficit will take care of itself as more people go back to work. Once we reach full employment, an outcome that will happen faster if we spend more, then we can afford to pay down the debt. If we cut spending now we’ll just end up like the Brits who are suffering through a double-dip recession. Why? They tried the Mulvaney/Tea Party approach. It’s fools errand to think the US government is the same as a household. The two are very different. Until the likes of Mulvaney are slapped down in the face of evidence that their approach will fail the nation risks economic stagnation that could last for decades.

      1. Doug Ross


        I haven’t heard Obama say the debt is not an issue. Have you? In fact, he has made repeated statements suggesting it is an issue. But then he doesn’t really back those statements up with policies to do something about it. He will oversee the largest growth of debt over his two terms than any president in history.

      2. Steven Davis II

        $16 trillion dollar debt isn’t a big problem?

        I thought Obama had the unemloyment problem resolved. At least that’s what the media was reporting in late October – early November.

        As a lady said on WIS a few weeks ago… “You can’t drink yourself sober”.

  11. Brad Warthen Post author

    We’ve just had two great examples — Bud’s “BIG lie” and Doug’s assertion regarding Graham — of things that some of my friends here will absolutely believe no matter what is presented to the contrary. But every once in a while, as I just did, I feel compelled to stand up and say, “No, actually, that’s not true. And that isn’t, either.”

    As tired as I get of doing so.

    1. Doug Ross

      I would say it’s more the case that you filter out anything that would dispel your belief that Graham is an honorable, thoughtful, non-partisan politician. You seem to disregard the actual words that come out of his mouth and translate them into your version of what he really means.

      Here’s a direct quote from Lindsey this past week ” I’m going to have the courage of my convictions not to raise the debt ceiling until we reform our nation and stop becoming Greece and finally start getting out of debt. I hope Republicans will fight as hard on the debt ceiling as Barack Obama did on tax rates,”

      Tell me what that means if Graham votes to raise the debt ceiling? What convictions would he be referring to at that point? His conviction to staying in office and keeping the lobbyist money flowing into his multi-million dollar campaign fund?

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          I find it hard to track all the various threads. I want to read what folks are saying, even if I am not commenting, (surprise!), and I think I miss things.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author


            On the one hand, it’s a cool feature because if you want to answer something from 10 comments back, you don’t have to explain what you’re reacting to by quoting from it or whatever.

            On the other hand, it’s tough to tell at a glance what is the most recent thing in the thread. Or perhaps I should say, “threads,” because you get going on multiple tracks this way.

            Running a blog and keeping up with the conversations has always felt a little like playing chess against multiple opponents simultaneously. But this new feature increases that sense exponentially.

        2. Mark Stewart

          It is something that on the surface seems like a great advancement; but it certainly causes the thread to fragment even faster and more aggressively. It would be cool if the reply button just grabbed the person, time and first line of the comment one wanted to reply to, but would do so in one chronological order. Like what people started to do manually I guess…

  12. bud

    Brad, here’s the thing. You won’t believe Bush was lying no matter what the evidence, and it’s considerable. And to me it’s pretty much settled that he did lie. But it really doesn’t matter. The important lesson is that we just can’t trust ANY president in matters of war to the extent that we trusted Bush 10 years ago. We simply MUST be more prudent. Given the huge number of suicides among our veterans don’t we owe it to the people we ask to go into harms way that we do so for a just and proper purpose? The stakes are simply too high to do anything less. Given the noise about Iran this is not the time to forget the events of early 2003. Rather it is a time to reflect.

  13. Bart

    If it is a settled matter that Bush “lied” about Iraq and WMDs, then using the same logic that a president should be aware of events as important as the existence of WMDs then is it fair to reach the same logical conclusion that Obama was fully aware of the events as they unfolded in Benghazi and did nothing about them? You are either in charge and responsible or you are not, you can’t have it both ways.

    How is it even remotely possible for a president to not be informed about events that can and will have an impact on international events? Bush relied on faulty intelligence, according to everyone surrounding Obama, he had no intelligence on the situation at all? Again, how is it possible for a president to be excluded or so far removed from a politically dangerous situation, he can declare plausible deniability?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I agree with you Bart that the logic in those two situations is similar.

      Which is why I could never get as exercised about Benghazi as Graham and McCain have.

      On the other hand, I’m glad they kept up the heat on Susan Rice, because it caused us to find out a lot of other disturbing things about her record. But I wouldn’t have rejected her on the basis of Benghazi alone. Nor am I prepared at this time to condemn the administration over it…

  14. Kathryn Fenner

    Gawker sites have more of a matrix of initial comments, with click throughs for subsequent comments in the thread.

  15. bud

    Folks you’re trying to suggest because I like Obama I’m defending him on the Libya incident. Clearly the administration failed to respond to credible reports that the consolate was unsafe. Our folks should have been pulled out. As bad as that was it wasn’t the equavalent of lying us into war the way Bush did. The two are just not equivalent.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Except, of course, that Bush did not “lie us into war.”

      I realize there are probably blogs out there where that is taken as Gospel, as something that is just not even subjected to discussion. But it is not true, and every time you say it here, I am going to set the record straight.

      1. Doug Ross


        So you can speak with 100% certainty that during the run up to the decision to engage Iraq, there wasn’t a single time that George Bush made statements that were untrue? That he and Cheney didn’t use their own bias and personal/political agenda to select the pieces of intelligence information they would use to justify the cause? I mean if you go back and look at Colin Powell’s U.N. speech, you have to decide whether he was lying (as a surrogate of Bush) or that the CIA was incompetent from top to bottom. You don’t go to war on information that isn’t 100% rock solid. Bush wanted the war and he made it happen. Rejecting the truth to present a trumped up case is as good as a lie.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          First, the burden of proof is on those who claim the president lied. Prove it.

          Second, we never, EVER go to war on the basis of information that “100 percent rock solid.” That’s an impossible standard.

          Intelligence is an imperfect science. You gather all the information you can get — some of which will indicate one thing, some of which will indicate its precise opposite. And you make the best decision you can under the circumstances. There is always a judgment to be made about what to believe and what to disregard. Failing to believe intel that later turns out to be right doesn’t make you a dishonest person. It just makes you wrong in that instance.

          History is replete with intelligence failures that set this nation on a wrong course in war. Just a couple, off the top of my head: We completely failed to understand the nature of the hedgerows in Normandy in June 1944. We thought “hedgerow” meant a hedge in the American or English sense — a modest little thing three feet or so high separating one front lawn from another. Instead, they were massive obstacles that hindered our advance, and gave the Germans a vast network of formidable defense points, bogging us down for weeks.

          Another that boggles my mind as I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Lincoln… McLellan’s persistent overestimation of the strength of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was used as an excuse, over and over, to refuse to engage at a point when the Union might have quickly taken Richmond and ended the war years early, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

          If I took the time, I could go on and on…

          1. Doug Ross

            “Second, we never, EVER go to war on the basis of information that “100 percent rock solid.” That’s an impossible standard.”

            I’d say Pearl Harbor approached the 100% rock solid standard.

            We went into Iraq pre-emptively, not under threat or following an attack. We went because Bush wanted to go. The lousy intel was massaged enough to make a dog-and-pony show for Colin Powell to present to the U.N. to provide some cover. We have a military that abhors peace. If there isn’t any enemy to crush, we will create one.

          2. Doug Ross

            “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

            Dwight Eisenhower. A President who understood war and peace and predicted the current sorry state of our military industrial complex. Would Ike have gone into Iraq?

        2. Bart


          You make some good points but if you will recall at the time, our “boots on the ground” intelligence apparatus had been rendered almost totally ineffective by the previous administration and we had no assets that could be relied upon to supply accurate information. Our intelligence network had been compromised to the point where we were essentially dependent upon other countries to supply or fill in the necessary gaps for intelligence gathering. The use of spy satellites and spy planes is one thing but they are limited to what can be seen from above, not what goes on inside a building, a meeting of military minds, or a dictator’s palace.

          Without inside intelligence, outside the borders of Iraq, who other than Hussein himself knew the truth about WMDs before the decision was made to invade Iraq? If you can answer that with actual facts, not speculation by a blog or an opportunistic politician, or Valerie Plame’s husband who changed his story about yellow cake, I will change my opinion that GWB relied on what was supplied to him as actionable intelligence and purposely used faulty intelligence for what suited some unknown self-serving purpose to send over 3,000 of our troops to their death in Iraq.

          Almost everyone in the world believed Saddam Hussein’s propaganda that he did possess massive amounts of WMDs because he had already proven they existed by his use of them during the Iran-Iraq war and when he destroyed villages in his own country. So, there were actual, historical precedents by Hussein to support the common belief that they existed.

          If you take the entire period of history and events beginning with the first Twin Tower bombing and extrapolate the available information from that point on, including critical decisions made by the Clinton administration and subsequent events leading up to the 9-11, for the most part, the entire country was in favor of taking further action especially after the farcical attempts at enforcement of the inspections and restrictions imposed by the UN on Iraq.

          Ultimately, we need to ask a simple question. Was the purported existence of WMDs in Iraq a false positive based on information available through historical documentation of Hussein’s previous use of chemical and biological agents in war and against his own people plus his continued insistence that he either possessed or was developing WMDs? A false positive that could only be verified after the fact based on actual search and discovery. So, is GWB to be blamed for possessing the knowledge for what has become a common belief that WMDs did not exist in mass quantities in Iraq or is he to be given the benefit of the doubt based on our intelligence failures at the time?

          As for a comparison between Benghazi and Iraq, in theory, there is no actual difference when it comes to the actions or lack thereof of the respective presidents. Bush acted on incomplete and inaccurate intelligence and sent troops to war. Obama didn’t act on actionable and accurate intelligence and went to bed. Result – American lives were lost needlessly. Given that the numbers in one are greater, does the fact that only four lost their lives in the other accord forgiveness, deniable plausibility, and no responsibility? If you want to get into hyperbole, whether it is the blood of 3,000 or the blood of 4, each has the blood of Americans on his hands. Is the death of 4 less important than the death of 3,000?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            If I had a “like” button — which I’m not going to have, but if I did — I’d hit it now. Bart remembers it as it was.

            Frankly, given that their actions OR inactions will inevitably lead to the loss of life somewhere at some time, I wonder that anyone who has ever held the office of POTUS can ever sleep at night. I say that not as a moral judgment. The best president in the world (including Lincoln) makes decisions that others pay for with their blood. Would I be able to do that job, and set aside the personal recriminations, and carry on day after day? I don’t know that I could.

  16. bud

    Doug you articulated that point much better than I’ve ever been able to do. Clearly Bush wanted that war. There is a pretty solid paper trail that makes that crystal clear.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      If, by that, you mean that Bush had reasons to want to invade Iraq that extended beyond the WMD that everyone talks about, then you’re absolutely right. So did I — and so did the editorial boards of the Washington Post, and the New Republic, and all sorts of people who saw Saddam as a problem that had to be dealt with.

      Actually, though, if I remember correctly, Bush evolved on the issue. In Bob Woodward’s book on our campaign toppling the Taliban in late 2001, he writes about discussions at that time about attacking Iraq — with Bush against it, and the neocons in his administration for it. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but either Woodward got that wrong (or “Woodward lied!” as I suppose some of y’all might say), or Bush later changed his mind.

  17. Brad Warthen Post author

    Of course, an insistence on believing wrong intel could arise from a character defect. I think that was true in McLellan’s case.

    But then, you could, because of a character defect — some personal stubbornness or cowardice or insanity — insist upon a course that turns out in the end to have been the right one.

    These things are very complicated.

  18. bud

    Let’s not forget the Downing Street memo that confirms Bush wanted to invade but did not have a good justification. From WIKI:

    The most controversial paragraph is a report of a recent visit to Washington by head of the Secret Intelligence Service Sir Richard Dearlove (known in official terminology as ‘C’):

    C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

    “… the intellligence and facts were fixed around the policy.” How can there be any doubt that the man was lying to the American people? It is simply inexplicable that he can STILL be defended. I know what many folks are thinking right now, “let’s move on, that’s 10 years ago”. Indeed. But all I ask from folks is not to let the likes of the Brad Warthen’s of the world convince you that Bush was in any way honorable in the runup to the Iraq war. We simply must NOT ever let this happen again.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It can be disconcerting.

      I sort of hate to cut off the function altogether, though.

      What if I just asked everyone, in a separate post, to please only use it rarely? To go back to the linear approach, but use this function when you want to respond to something 20 comments back, saying something that addresses ONLY that comment, and which does not advance the overall conversation?

      It would take a lot of repetition, and we’d sort of have to figure out the boundaries as we go along, but that might work.

      I think right now, we’re just overusing it.

      Note that I did not use it in responding, below, to Bud’s comment (above) about the Downing memo.

  19. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’ve never understood what anyone thought was news in the Downing memo. That the president of the United States wanted to effect regime change in Iraq would not have been surprising to anyone on either side of the Special Relationship who followed foreign affairs.

    It had been the stated aim of this country officially since 1998. We had been involved militarily in containing Saddam ever since we pulled back and decided not to take him out in 1991. It was a problem that needed to be dealt with at some point, and had been for a dozen years.

    What sort of surprised me was when I read in that Woodward book that in late 2001 Bush did NOT want to move on Iraq. In any case, by the next summer, it was pretty broadly known that that had changed, and we would likely at some point in the next year be invading Iraq. I remember running op-eds on the subject about that time. (The statement from the memo, “Military action was now seen as inevitable,” is an accurate description of what was getting to be widely acknowledged in Washington by that time.)

    I just don’t see why any senior people in Her Majesty’s Government would have found this surprising as late as July 2002. Only three months later, the congressional resolution authorizing military action passed, and the month after that UN Security Council Resolution 1441.

  20. Brad Warthen Post author

    And that phrase, “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,” which is supposed to be such a “gotcha”!

    What does it really mean? It’s a terse statement in memo form, supposedly characterizing what the head of MI6 said to the group, which in turn was based supposedly on his impressions from a trip to Washington.

    It’s not a direct quote. Whose words are they, and what did that person mean by them? Would C have used those words himself? And if he had, what would HE have meant by them? Would he have meant “fixed” in the sense of “focused on” (which would make perfect sense) or in some nefarious sense of “altered,” “falsified” or whatever? And would he have been right in his estimate of what was happening in Washington?

    And if he had used “fixed” in the negative sense, and those present had understood it that way, would that not rapidly have become the focus of the meeting, so that the observation would have been elaborated upon at some length?

  21. Bart

    Why is logic so hard for some to use? First, the POLICY for regime change in Iraq was established in 1998 by congress and signed into law by WJC. Afterwards, a steady parade of Democrat lawmakers seeking time in front of any available microphone constantly talked and warned us about the serious threat Saddam Hussein and his regime posed to the world. Then, the events of 9-11 and although sketchy, there were connections of convenience, “enemy of my enemy is my friend”, of the 9-11 events to Iraq and with the history of non-compliance with UN sanctions concerning WMDs and nuclear weapons along with a new and very real concern about the potential of even more terrorist attacks, the available intelligence and facts concerning the established belief that Saddam Hussein did indeed possess WMDs and would not hesitate to use them was applied to an existing policy and used as the prevailing reason to invade Iraq.

    Mistake in judgment? Only in retrospect and through the lens of 20/20 hindsight was there a mistake in judgment. Yes, the Iraq War was tied to facts and intelligence presented “post” policy enactment.

  22. bud

    In a court of law the “fixed around the policy” statement would probably be considered heresay. But in the overall context of the events and other evidence, especially from the inspectors, it’s crystal clear that Bush was going in but needed justification. So he resorted to the only avenue he had available, he lied. Why is that so hard to understand? Even someone who inexplicably STILL believes that was the proper course of action should be able to see that.

  23. bud

    … the available intelligence and facts concerning the established belief that Saddam Hussein did indeed possess WMDs.

    We can go around and around on this for days. As a final thought, for now at least, I STRONGLY disagree with that statement.

  24. Doug Ross

    Cheney bullied Bush into the Iraq war because both knew Cheney was smarter. Bush surely made it clear to the CIA that he was looking for a reason to go in. Pieces of questionable intelligence were packaged together into what seemed like a clear narrative, the sum being greater than the parts. So maybe Bush didn’t lie – he just deceived. Cheney became a multi-millionaire due to his influence with military conflicts that benefited Halliburton. It’s nice to think that everything is about freedom and security, but it always comes down to money.

  25. Brad Warthen Post author

    Bud and Doug,

    Come on, guys — nobody had to go LOOKING for WMD as an argument. It was one (among many) that had been accepted as fact for more than a decade, based not least upon the fact that Saddam had actually used such weapons. (The missing element that we did NOT know was that Saddam had gotten rid of his chemical weapons.)

    Bud seems to think that Bush was going around thinking “I’d sure like to invade Iraq. But I need an excuse. I know! We’ll invent a WMD threat!”

    The WMD was just one of a number of things we (thought we) knew that justified the invasion. Unfortunately, it was the most easily understood among most of the American public, and therefore was way overemphasized. The case for invading Iraq existed without WMD. The fact that we thought sure he had WMD just made the political argument easier, since the arguments that motivated me and Tom Friedman and other policy geeks (“draining swamps,” etc.) were too abstract to capture the public imagination.

    Another thing Bud and others conveniently forget is how amazing it was that the WMD weren’t there. It was the worst-case scenario, in terms of undermining political will in this country, and it happened. It was a political, diplomatic and strategic disaster that neither Bush nor anyone else would have walked into willingly. I don’t see how even Bush’s greatest detractors, as easily as “Bush lied” falls from their lips, could possibly believe that he would have initiated the invasion knowing there were no WMD — which means he would have known that the whole world would soon know there were no WMD. Nobody would ever willingly walk into a situation like that.

  26. Doug Ross

    So for more than a decade the intelligence again and again confirmed the existence of WMD’s and then, surprise!, there were none? I’d say that was a pretty big OOPS, MY BAD! Or, I would suggest that if you have a desire to keep billions of dollars flowing to defense contractors, you see what you want to see. There are people in government motivated by greed and the lust for power… I know that’s shocking.

    It’s about money, Brad. That’s all it’s about. Money that could have been spent to do all sorts of things here at home that would have made us stronger, healthier, more educated. We were never under any threat from Iraq. We could have wiped them out minutes after they tried anything. But that’s the cheap route.

  27. Doug Ross

    Think about this: How many American jobs DEPEND on their being a threat to the national security of the United States? 20 radicals with box cutters were able to create hundreds of billions of dollars of tax expenditures.

  28. bud

    Another thing Bud and others conveniently forget is how amazing it was that the WMD weren’t there.

    I wasn’t amazed at all, especially with nukes. The inspectors were pretty much reaching that conclusion until Bush forced them out by instigating his war. There was PLENTY of evidence AT THE TIME to suggest the WMD threat was overstated. Seriously Brad you forget that I was around then and I have a long memory. That’s why we should take this Iranian threat with a grain of salt.


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